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South Asia Rural Livelihoods Newsletter No. 3



Feature Stories




Welcome Message

Adolfo BrizziLet me start by offering warm New Year’s greetings to everyone! This will be the last newsletter that I sign as I move to another job in another Region after seven years in South Asia. This has been a terrific experience and the Livelihood program one of its highlights. I am tempted to quickly take stock of where we have been and to think about where we are going with the Livelihood program. In the past year South Asian countries have experienced conflict, natural disasters, a food price crisis, and a global financial crisis—which continues to plague us. Faced with such conditions, the work we are doing to support the rural poor is more important than ever.

But what makes rural livelihoods projects different from other development efforts? I believe it’s the institutions we help create. A poor person living in poverty does not necessarily face a simpler world. To get services, supplies, jobs, and buyers for their products, they must deal with government, with politicians, with private companies, with NGOs, and with the ubiquitous development professionals who only want to help (most of the time). Many projects and programs have tried to juggle these interests on behalf of the poor, with mixed results. Livelihoods projects have demonstrated how important it is to help the poor organize themselves so that they can juggle their own interests, make their own decisions, and take charge of their own development. Supporting institutions of the poor, instead of institutions for the poor has turned the development paradigm on its head and unleashed the innovative potential of rural communities across South Asia.

Our livelihood projects now number over 20 across the region. We have reached over 12 million households, in over 90,000 villages and helped form one million grassroots community groups. These projects are at different stages in the livelihood development approach. Some are still forming participatory institutions of the poor to improve basic service delivery to rural areas. Others, with more years under their belts, are showing the potential of the organized poor to exert their voice (empowerment), leverage funds from formal banks (finance), get jobs when they have the chance to build their skills (employment), and gain a competitive position in the market (income). In the coming months we will share lessons and impacts from three of our largest programs in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan as they draw to a close.

These livelihood programs are teaching us the power of "voice" and "scale", where organized communities and groups have been able to become a sector, the so called "people sector", instead of a mass of disorganized, scattered and small households. This has been a critical element in the capacity of poor people to gain the social, economic and political clout to make the public sector more accountable in the delivery of services and to attract the private sector to the "bottom of the pyramid" market. Working on the roll out of this "people sector" concept in South Asia, and its applications to rural livelihood, irrigation, agriculture and watershed programs, has been rewarding. Every day we discover new innovations emerging and opportunities for Public-Private-People partnerships. This includes federated institutions of the poor who are setting up their own procurement centers; whob have entered into franchising agreements with health insurance companies; who are handling retailing of Government services; and many other new approaches to make the market work for them. While many of these innovations are still in the infant stage, the potential is quite obvious and hopefully the best days of the Livelihood Program are still ahead of us.

This issue offers a mix of events, stories, and profiles that highlight good practice in areas like governance, targeting, technology, and more. We’re pleased to see a story contributed by a member of the implementing agency, and we hope others will feel free to contribute content in the future. We also continue our profiles of Project Directors, this time introducing Gamini Batuwitage of Sri Lanka’s Gemidiriya project.

I would like to thank the whole team that has worked so hard on this agenda for their dedication and commitment and encourage them to sustain their efforts in the pursuit of this critical pillar of the poverty alleviation agenda.


Gemidiriya Wins 2008 Manthan Award

Manthan AwardThe Sri Lanka Community Development and Livelihood Improvement Project—better known as Gemidiriya—recently won the 2008 Manthan Award South Asia for best e-content for developmentfor its ITSHED pilot. ITSHED is a Web site started by the Reverend Pattiyawela Mahinda Thera, Director of the Institute of Thirasara Social & Economical Development to provide connectivity for rural villagers for networking, empowerment, and commerce. Gemidiriya now sponsors ITSHED, providing a group of organized and empowered villages and federations to use the site to its fullest.

Through ITSHED, a village organization (VO) can provide email addresses to individuals and help them develop personal Web pages for social networking. The VOs also provide information on products for sale, job seekers in their village, goods and services needed in villages, so service providers and companies can identify untapped markets. The commerce and networking roles of ITSHED are supplemented with an extensive and growing collection of resources on agriculture and other livelihoods. Congratulations to Rev. Mahinda Thera, Dr. Gamini Batuwitage, and the entire ITSHED team! Visit ITSHED at


Building a Participatory Governance and Accountability Action Plan (GAAP)

As many readers will know, all Bank-financed projects in India must now have a governance and accountability action plan (GAAP) in place, and we have been working hard to create these in all of our livelihoods projects—not only those in India.

For those unfamiliar with GAAPs, these are plans for projects that systematically map and analyze the governance risks in a project; outline human resource, partnership, and policy needs to combat risks; and clearly define measures to ensure compliance with anticorruption measures and deal with cases of fraud or corruption discovered during implementation. GAAP is not a new concept, but it is a new tool in Bank projects.

Three livelihoods projects—The Social Investment Program Project (SIPP) in Bangladesh, Gemidiriya in Sri Lanka, and India’s Vazhndhu Kaatuvom in Tamil Nadu—shared a special World Bank grant to hire an expert and spent the last six months developing their GAAPs in close collaboration with project staff and communities. Their efforts culminated in a joint ‘Governance Knowledge Creation Workshop’ in Tamil Nadu between November 5th and 8th, 2008.

GAAP Workshop in TNDuring the event project staff and community representatives from each country validated their own GAAP, shared their governance challenges and solutions with others, and created knowledge that will form the basis of a governance training module for communities and field staff.

In the finale to the workshop, working groups presented their training material in a friendly competition. The groups showcased an innovative range of songs, games, mini-dramas and skits, and posters that illustrated the governance risks faced by communities and field teams during implementing and ways to address those risks. Next they will refine these materials into a training module to share with other projects. For more information contact Natasha Hayward ( or Meena Munshi (

Micro-planning for Rural Livelihoods Projects

From December 15 to 19, 2008 over 35 participants—including livelihood project teams, World Bank staff, and consultants—attended a workshop on "Micro-Planning for Rural Livelihoods Projects in India" in Orissa, India. The workshop elucidated how micro-planning increases the overall capacity of both households and village institutions such as self-help groups (SHGs) to better plan and execute investments, loans and savings, and that of SHG federations and projects to allocate funds to different channels in the most effective and optimal manner to maximize the desired impacts. Two days of field visits allowed participants to interact with SHGs and be part of a micro-planning exercise. This learning-by-doing experience led to discussions in the remaining days of the workshop.

The participants expressed a strong commitment to micro-planning as a tool for community level planning and empowerment and broadly agreed that:

  • A micro-plan should emerge from community groups alone with the project playing the role of no more than a facilitator in the process;
  • A minimum level of functioning of an SHG/community group is a pre-requisite for micro planning;
  • The elements of micro-planning include the content, process, design and implementation and scaling-up strategy; and
  • Capacities for effective micro-planning, facilitation, and management need to be built at all levels.

The Bank’s South Asia Agriculture & Rural Development Unit (SASDA) planned and supported the workshop. For more information contact Samik Sundar Das (

Microplanning workshop

Planning Commission Meeting

A presentation comparing Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Program (APRPRP) with two of the largest micro finance-based programs in Bangladesh and world —Grameen Bank and BRAC—was made to Dr Montek Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India in October 2008. The presentation mainly focused on the approach, scale and outreach of the program, and the impacts of the program on the economic and social front including financial access, income and livelihoods. The purpose behind this presentation was to demonstrate where the APRPRP model stood in comparison to Grameen and BRAC. Deputy Chairman was surprised to know that the AP program had reached 8.75 million households over last 12 years compared to Grameen which had reached 7.41 million households over 31 years and BRAC which had reached 7.30 million households over 35 years. He also was interested in learning that annual lending to poor households by commercial banks in AP was $1.2 billion last year compared to US$731 million for Grameen and US$937 million for BRAC. The average loan per household in case of AP works out to be US$237 as compared to US$79 in Grameen and US$83 in BRAC. He also showed keen interest in learning about the different approaches used, particularly in AP where the project works to develop creditworthy clients for commercial banks which do both thrift and credit in contrast to the MFI lending agency approach used in Bangladesh. Deputy Chairman and his staff indicated the need to be debriefed periodically on results and the impacts.

Download the presentation by Parmesh Shah. For more details contact Parmesh Shah at

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Course on "Monitoring and Evaluation for Results"

February 23-27, 2009, New Delhi, India. This course is offered by SASSD in collaboration with World Bank Institute Evaluation Group (WBIEG) and South Asian M&E experts. Local M&E experts from South Asia Region will provide local content and showcase regional case studies.

The course follows the previous SASSD initiative: "Results on the Ground - A Learning and Design Workshop on M&E and Social Accountability", held in Mussoorie, India in 2008. The curriculum is a repeat of the popular course delivered by WBIEG in Vienna, Austria in December 2008. For the Vienna workshop curriculum, visit

Open to the staff of the World Bank and cooperating institutions and their project counterparts, the course modules cover design of M&E systems, measures and indicators, data collection, sampling, data analysis strategies, case studies and reporting results. The delivery of the course will be highly interactive and example-based, with much opportunity for addressing participants' specific areas of interest or project concerns and for networking with other M&E practitioners. For further information, please contact Ai Chin Wee at, or Christina Ling at


New Approval: Orissa Community Tanks Management Project

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved Orissa Community Tanks Management Project on September 30th, 2008 for an IBRD Loan Amount of US$56 million. The objective of this project is to improve agricultural productivity and Water User Associations (WUA) to manage tank systems effectively.

There are four components to the project. The first component focuses on institutional strengthening which will support WUA capacity building in key areas such as: planning and implementation of tank system rehabilitation works; planning for operations and maintenance (O&M); collection of water charges, maintenance of records and accounts; improved water-sharing and utilization; and participatory monitoring, learning, and evaluation. The second component improves tank systems in order to improve their physical and operational performance, ensure safe operation, and improve reliability of irrigation water supply. The third component provides agricultural livelihoods support services. This would enhance tank-based livelihoods by increasing production and profitability of agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, livestock and other productive activities. The fourth component of project management should ensure smooth implementation of project activities, monitoring of progress, outputs and outcomes achieved, and learning from project experience. For project documents, please click here.


Energizing the Communities
Munzir Elahi, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Pakistan

People in the Pakistani villages of Arab Soomar and Hussaini Faqir were literally living in the dark. Located in a poverty stricken pocket of coastal Sindh on the outskirts of Karachi, these villages had no electricity.

Over one hundred households in the two villages are almost exclusively dependent on off-shore fishing for livelihood support and lacked access to even the most basic civic amenities. Household latrines were nonexistent; streets were un-surfaced and mostly remained inundated with waste water; and there were no health and education facilities. One additional burden faced by the communities in these villages was that neither of them had electricity. As a result, the communities were forced to use kerosene oil and firewood for lighting, which not only carried with it severe health risks but was contributing directly to environmental degradation of natural resources and an erosion of limited incomes.

Keeping in view demands emanating from within the community, it was evident that PPAF had to prioritize the need for household electrification in a way that was sustainable as well as consistent with the average income level of residents. Consequently, Indus Earth Trust was partnered with the task to initiate two pilot Solar Home Systems (SHS) initiatives.

While the maintenance of one pilot is being looked after by a group of three to six households, the same responsibility is being shared by the whole community in the other instance. Of the estimated total cost of PKR 2.5 million for the project, PPAF contributed 92% while the community is contributing 8%.

The projects have directly impacted household welfare by providing extra working hours at night which households have utilized for running repairs on boats and fishing nets. Previously, precious daylight hours were consumed by these activities. Similarly, women have found more time to engage in productive income generating activities like embroidery and stitching while there has been a significant reduction in the incidence of snake bites at night as movement within and around the villages has become safer. For more information on this project please contact Munzir at

Energizing Communities in Pakistan

Afghanistan: Where Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches Meet
Hans Jansen, Naila Ahmed and Grahame Dixie

Tough circumstances call for innovative solutions. This could not be truer for a country like Afghanistan that has been torn by war, famine, invasion and foreign occupation in the last three decades. Most Afghanis are rural, with 60 percent of them working in the agriculture and livestock sector. Therefore, if a development program wants to make a dent in poverty it must focus on agriculture.

Afghanistan boy lifting somethingLife for rural Afghanis is harsh. While 23 percent of rural households are landless, those who possess land do not have it much easier either. The average farm size is small, water is scarce in this arid land, and food crops are grown mostly for subsistence purposes. In contrast to the past, Afghanistan now imports a significant part of its cereal consumption. Livestock, a traditional form of livelihood, constitutes the largest asset of Afghan rural households. But over time even this sector has suffered from population growth, frequent droughts, and conflicts between the traditional livestock nomads and sedentary farmers. Consequently, Afghanistan is suffering greatly from the recent food price increase and now has the dubious distinction of having the highest food price inflation in South Asia.

The World Bank, together with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, is designing a national program—the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program (ARED)—to address some of the issues discussed above. By adopting an innovative simultaneous bottom-up / top-down approach, the project will promote high-value agriculture and enhance the rural non-farm sector by harnessing the potential of micro-enterprise. ARED aims to increase market participation of community-level rural enterprises and agri-businesses, build backward linkages to the rural economy, and encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to purchase locally. This should increase production, incomes, and sustainable employment opportunities. ARED will draw on the experiences of various livelihood and community-based models which are already under implementation here.

Unlike other South Asian countries, most value-chains in Afghanistan are highly inefficient with exceptionally high transaction costs. This makes many products, including agricultural produce, uncompetitive in both the domestic and potential export markets. By maintaining a flexible and integrated approach, ARED will attempt to lower these transaction costs.

By operating through trained NGOs and/or implementing agencies to support the emergence of rural enterprises, it will begin with experimental learning that focuses on detecting market opportunities. A demand-driven support process (e.g., business skills, technology training, and technical and business advice to SMEs) will be offered accordingly. ARED will also support access to finance opportunities (e.g., savings and loan schemes, seed grant support, matching grants for innovations, and linkages to MFIs) and will also establish a challenge fund for start up SMEs. Maybe this is a drop in the ocean for now, but we hope ARED will unleash the future potential to improve lives in Afghanistan. For more information contact Naila Ahmed at

Working with Coastal Communities: a Focus on India’s Marine Fisheries
Grant Milne

Across South Asia, many of our livelihoods projects are working with coastal communities dependent on fishing for their incomes. Marine fishing forms an important component of the Indian rural coastal economy, generating livelihoods and food security for an estimated 3.5 million people along the 8,118 km coastline. Out of an estimated 242,000 active fishing vessels, 75% are traditional boats. The majority of small-scale fishers and processors are poor, with annual earnings below Rs25,000 (US$625). Debt levels are often very high, made worse by the lack of regular cash surpluses from fishing, problems in finding alternative income during lean fishing seasons, and being able to fish only during the usual nine-month season. These factors can lead to a perpetual cycle of debt for many smaller-scale fishers.

Yet India is the world’s fourth largest fish producing nation and second in aquaculture, accounting for 6.5 percent of global fish trade. Currently, marine fishing represents 46 percent of the total national fish production of 6.37 million tones. India’s marine fishing sub-sector has the potential to develop a more valuable asset base (building wealth around more productive fish stocks); generate a higher level of sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits in the future (capturing this wealth); and improving the distribution of these benefits (providing for better equity). At the same time, most global fisheries, including India, are underperforming due to weak policy and legal frameworks and ineffective management leading to: declining resource productivity, overcapacity of fishing effort, and reduced real values of landed fish.

Fish packing in IndiaA program of reforms, implemented over time at both the national and state levels in India, needs to address core policy, legal, institutional and fisheries management issues. Transitional change can best be achieved through consultative and analytical processes that will lead to improved knowledge and awareness, more efficient legal and policy frameworks, stronger institutions and stakeholder participation, and more effective fisheries management systems. The aim would be to gradually shift the policy, institutional and management focus from simply promoting harvests of increasing volumes of fish, to improving the productivity of fish stocks, maximizing net benefits, and enabling equitable and inclusive growth, within a system that has well-defined fishing rights.

As a first step, the World Bank, in collaboration with the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture), DfID and FAO, recently completed a draft report and consultations to better understand issues and opportunities in marine fishing in India, and to guide the next steps forward towards sector reform. For more information, contact Grant Milne at

Giving the People What They Want: National Solidarity Program Surveys
Andrew Beath, Harvard University

Imagine designing a development program that suits the needs of the whole community. To avoid making presumptuous conclusions and ensure communities get what they need, a multi-year rigorous impact evaluation of the National Solidarity Program (NSP), a community-driven development (CDD) project in Afghanistan, is underway. It will provide evidence-based recommendations to the Government of Afghanistan on methods to refine the implementation of the program. Evidence from the impact study will also help in addressing some of the questions raised about the effectiveness of CDD programs - a highly scrutinized area, especially in conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan.

NSP was created by the Government of Afghanistan in 2003 to develop the ability of Afghan communities to identify, plan, manage and monitor their own development projects and to lay the foundation for a sustainable form of inclusive local governance, and rural reconstruction. Through NSP, villages in Afghanistan directly elect Community Development Councils (CDC), to which block grant funds are disbursed to support the implementation of development projects. The transformation brought about by the NSP has made it possible for local people to have decision-making power and control over certain resources for the first time in Afghanistan.

Man in AfghanistanThe impact evaluation of the NSP will track key outcome indicators in 500 villages across Afghanistan over three years. During August and September of 2007, the baseline survey for the evaluation was administered, involving nearly 13,000 participants. Data from the baseline survey indicates that, prior to the initiation of NSP activities respondents faced high levels of poverty and were generally poorly served by other projects. Over 80 percent of households drew water from unsafe sources and only 14 percent had access to electricity. Access to health care was limited, with around 89 percent of respondents reporting that there was no community health worker available to treat illnesses of people in the village.

The survey also found that village headmen and tribal elders usually play the leading role in making decisions on behalf of the community, establishing rules, and resolving disputes. Women, however, appear to have very limited influence in village governance. 91 percent of female respondents stated that there was no formal role by which women could participate in the village council. Overall, respondents generally indicated a strong desire for political participation and government involvement.

Regarding prioritization of sub-projects, both male heads-of-household and female respondents believe that clean drinking water facilities are of primary importance. This was followed by need for schools and health facilities. Projects focusing on irrigation and roads and bridges were of high importance to male respondents but meant less for female respondents. The evaluation team plans to undertake the follow-up surveys in 2009 and 2010.

All reports, data, questionnaires, and material pertaining to the study are available at: For more information contact Mio Takada, Rural Development Specialist, at

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Gamini BatuwitageWho is Gamini Batuwitage? A man who is passionate about bringing about changes in the lives of others! Dr. Batuwitage is the Project Director of "Gemidiriya" in Sri Lanka. Gamini has contributed greatly to the community driven development approach to reducing poverty in Sri Lanka . This has become a vehicle for development, peace and prosperity in the country. A visionary, nothing inspires Batuwitage more than bringing about better results for the beneficiaries.

Early years

Born in 1949, Gamini graduated from the University of Ceylon in Sri Lanka . He joined the Sri Lanka Administrative Service as Divisional Revenue Officer following a brief stint at Bank of Ceylon. His commitment to public service and leadership was recognized with an opportunity to pursue a program in planning and resource management at West Virginia University in the US.

Upon his return, Gamini worked with UNESCAP and NORAD in rural development projects. He designed an Integrated Rural Development Project and also served a participatory area development model which was later funded by NORAD.

During the civil war and an armed youth uprising in 1992 that disrupted field operations, Gamini once again went to pursue his academic goals; this time a doctoral program in Clark University, US. When he graduated as a development geographer, Gamini returned to his home country one more time to head the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.


It was in the course of working as Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock that he was appointed as the project director of a rural poverty reduction project known as "Gemidiriya".

Life as the project director is not easy for Batuwitage, and challenges are many. He manages conflicting interests of stakeholders in the domain of poverty reduction and community development. His relentless activism extends to communicating CDD principles and results to the outside world for adoption and scaling-up of tried and tested project practices.

Batuwitage has constructed a Gemidiriya model of 1,000 communities comprising of 900,000 people with increased income levels and improved livelihoods with access to information technology and effective partnerships. He has also been instrumental in modifying the design of projects in Bangladesh and India (Tamil Nadu) by demonstrating results of CDD under Gemidiriya. The cohesion of Government, public and private sector within the project is a testament to Batuwitage’s skill at identifying potential partners and encouraging these groups to support one another. He has persuaded the government to scale-up the poverty reduction program in Sri Lanka using Gemidiriya’s experience.

Personal life

Batuwitage is married and has a daughter. When he has time, he indulges in music, drama and reading. Out of personal interest, he is a promoter of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) for low input high yield rice cultivation and has demonstrated its effectiveness through his own paddy fields. He has initiated SRI adoption in Andhra Pradesh, India, and Pakistan. You can reach the Gemidiriya Web site at

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Two amazing women from the Andhra Pradesh Indira Kranthi Patham Program

H. Naseema Bhi

Naseema portrait small for newsletter 3Twenty-nine year old Naseema, a poor Muslim woman, fought against all odds, overcame every obstacle and became a successful entrepreneur. Coming from Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, Naseema has three children and a husband who used to work in a granite company earning Rs 40 a day – a salary too meager to feed the family. Pushed into the debt trap with high interest rates, Naseema’s family lost the possession of their land and house when they were unable to pay back the loan.

Although initially, she was forbidden to join a Self-Help Group by her husband, when Naseema finally joined the group after a year, she was able to start saving Rs 30 a month. She started selling bangles from the house with Rs 1000 that she borrowed from the group. The next loan was of Rs 5,000 that she used to establish a small bangle shop. Subsequently, she took more loans in bigger amounts to expand her store, lease a tobacco field, fix the house, and finally to buy an acre of granite land. When her husband became the owner (from a worker) of his own granite company, they were able to earn Rs 3,000 a day.

Nalagatla Venkata Ramanamma

Nalagatla small for Newsletter 3Married at the age of 15, Nalagatla – a mother of two by the age of 17 – used to work as an agriculture laborer along with her husband to support the family. Hit by dengue fever, her husband died, after which life for Nalagatla became very difficult. While the lenders began to pressure her for repayment, she withdrew her son from school, against his will, to employ him to earn some money.

When she shared her sorrows with her neighbor, Nalagatla was advised to join a self-help group. Life has not been the same since then. Nalagatla returned her son to school as soon as she joined the group. With her first loan of Rs 5,000, she purchased a buffalo and sold milk to the neighbors to repay the loan and meet some domestic needs. After selling her buffalo for a profit, she invested in cloth material for dress making. Since then she has invested every loan to improve the cloth business and today her son has completed his tenth grade and her daughter is doing nursing course.

During the rough times, it was only the group and its members that stood by her, helped, motivated and encouraged her at every step. Those who had deserted Nalagatla in the past after her husband’s death are coming to her now and respect her for the success she has gained.

Source: "How I Became a Lakhier, SHG Women Tell Tales of Successs,"Society of Elimination of Rural Poverty and Department of Rural Development Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, India.

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Share your project experience by contributing a newsletter article or a Livelihoods Learning Note! Contact Melissa Williams (, Natasha Hayward (, or Smriti Lakhey (

Editor: Smriti Lakhey. Reviewing Team from South Asia Sustainable Development Department: Melissa Williams, Natasha Hayward, Parmesh Shah, & Sanchita Ghosh. For comments or queries and contributions please write to Melissa Williams at

World Bank Logo - tiny sizeCopyright 2009 International Bank for Recontruction and Development. The content does not necessarily reflect the vies of hte Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent.

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